Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 20 January – snow ride to Newlands

Posted by Matt | January 20, 2013 | 24 comments so far

Barrie in the snow on the North Downs Way

If you’re a mountain biker in the UK, and it snows, you know the drill. You absolutely have to make all reasonable efforts to get out for a snow ride.

It’s the law.

This doesn’t necessarily make it easy to get to the start point though. Along with other moles leaving their burrow this morning there was a lot of sheet ice to contend with on untreated side roads. I first discovered this as I reached the end of my road and realised I had no way to make the turn and stay upright.

Instead, I tiptoed forward across the blue ice and up the kerb opposite, making my way from there, via the grass verge for a half mile or so, to a road in better condition. I met DaveC on the way and together we climbed up through quiet streets towards Bocketts Farm, where I managed to dump myself on the deck on more ice!

At the car park were some unfamiliar faces, with Tim and Keith joining us since their roadie preference was curtailed by the weather. There was also Andy, Tony, Barrie, Lloyd, DaveW and James. Alas, no sign of Kev who is (sensibly) hibernating in his mole hole.

Our initial plan was to work our way to Newlands via a circumspect route to avoid the Admirals Track Hawthorn gauntlet, so we headed into the Hazels and skidded and slipped our way down toward Roaring House Farm and from there along the bottom edge of the big field toward Crabtree Lane.

Mr Mechanical Barrie loses a pedal

It was hard going, the fresh snow was deep and draggy while anything compacted was pretty slippery. ‘Mechanical’ Barrie interrupted our efforts within a mile of setting off with the unusual event of his pedal falling off! Which is something I don’t think I’ve seen before, but at least his chain seemed fine this week!

Our tentative efforts resumed with us all feeling our way for grip. Things improved as we climbed up Crabtree and I was glad I’d taken the opportunity to let some air out of my tyres while Barrie sorted his pedal. We soon settled into a comfortable pace, much slower than usual but enough to keep us warm without overheating.

At the end of Crabtree we turned toward Polesdon and took the ‘singletrack’ along to where the trail from Wiggly Wood joins up for the descent. The trail was actually quite rideable if you we ready for unexpected slides from the back, front or both ends depending on how much effort you were putting in. I really enjoy picking a line along a trail like this and felt fine.

The trouble with this kind of riding is that when you go off line and stall you have to put a foot down and soon we were all suffering from cleats and pedals clogged with ice and snow but progress continued across to Polesdon and onto the climb past Tanners Hatch to Ranmore. This was quite a slog.

The singlespeeders suffered when they stalled on the steep slope as they then found it hard to balance grip to get going again but I managed to find a clear line thanks to gears and the full suspension set up I was running.

Up on Ranmore the road was reasonably clear. We debated about running all the way along to pick up the Drovers Road but opted in the end to give Badger Run and Collarbone a go. This turned out to be a good choice as more slow, steady riding ensued trying to find the optimal line along the heavily snow-covered trails. There was nothing predictable and it was nothing like our usual riding but great fun to be out. So far I don’t think we’d seen anyone else either walking or riding…

After Collarbone was threaded through Trouble in Paradise and then along toward the White Down road. But mickey taking of Tony and the benefits of all that grip that 29er riders proudly claim for themselves ended rather abruptly when I gave him the hurry-up and promptly lost my line and slithered to a standstill, at which point I was passing my most of the rest of the chasing pack!

By the time we reached the Abba Zabba area (no, of course we didn’t try it today!), Tim decided that his time was up and headed off toward home while the remaining Nine riders continued along the North Downs way. This was excellent fun but very slow going as we had frozen ruts, deep pools of ice and thick snow to contend with, so it was every man for himself.

Moles in the snow on the Drover's road

The fun finally ended after what seemed a long time of battling the trail when we all congregated back on the Drovers Road.

What a contrast that was! Instead of the sense the trail was against you we were suddenly faced with a wide track with snow that sufficiently compacted to provide grip without being treacherous. The snow was really excellent today, giving up a satisfying squeak under compression; this hint of grip was picked up by us all subconsciously and speeds increased as confidence grew. It’s amazing how you can almost sense grip sometimes and it can change quickly in these conditions.

Of course we were never flat out – grip was always less than normal and the light was pretty flat, making it hard to see trail contours. A biting wind didn’t hrlp, blowing small flinty flakes of snow into our faces as we headed to Newlands. But we made pretty good time, helped by a general downward path to our destination.

I rewarded myself with a bacon and egg roll and a cup of coffee at Newlands in near whiteout conditions (there was no view today). It was strangely was devoid of the usual plethora of high powered motor bikes which meant no real queuing for food although a few other riders arrived while we were there, including Clive and some Cycleworks riders. My only error was to remove my gloves which let the moisture in them freeze and kept my hands cold for several miles of the return journey.

Dave in the snow

Retracing our tyre tracks we headed back along the North Downs Way right to the White Down road this time, with no-one particularly keen to attempt the painful progress through the woods again (besides we were running out of time for that). Instead, we slipped and slid onto the Ranmore Road and followed it along to the start of Hogden Lane.

Ah, Hogden Lane. It all started rather well as I followed Dave down the track. It was smoothly covered with a nice layer of snow that felt just fine. Right up until we reached the cottage being renovated, at which five of us, myself included, were summarily upended as we suddenly found the track to be – mainly – sheet ice under a covering of newly fallen snow.

Ouch! I was lucky enough to skitter into the bank, but Andy fell hard along with Keith and Lloyd and DaveC hitting the deck. Ok, it was funny to see so many bikes drop but it hurt! A few yards further down the track, Keith and Lloyd both made solid contact with the ice again, Lloyd hurting his delicate shoulders and Keith whacking his head.

As the others drifted away from us I hung back to make sure both Keith and Lloyd were able to continue – you never know and being stuck somewhere in the cold is not a good option. So we slowly picked our way along and then up toward Polesdon, past a huge field with loads of people sledging.

Finally back at Polesdon, again we took things easy. Keith peeled off for home and Dave and James shot down the tarmac toward the Admirals Track while Lloyd and I took to the bridlepath not wanting to risk the soft ice and slush on the road. After Lloyd headed for home I chased down James and Dave while carefully negotiating the hawthorns and we were soon back at the car park, soon to be joined by the rest of the pack who had turned off earlier and headed back via the A246.

The final part of the ride was yet again a very wary mince down to the ‘safety’ of the Lower Road as the side roads remained treacherous; I had no faith in the surface at all. By the time I arrived home – in one piece! – it was snowing again and has continued to snow for much of the afternoon. I didn’t care, we’d had a good ride today of approximately 24 miles, so an afternoon on the couch was perfect!

Filed under Rides in January 2013


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 24 comments on ‘Ride report: Sunday 20 January – snow ride to Newlands’

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  1. paul901 says:

    So how much difference would a tyre like the Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro have made on a ride like that?

  2. stevend says:

    Great ride report, a lot of which was similar to my own local ride. The opening paragraph is so true, and it was very pleasing to see lots of MTB snow pictures yesterday in my FB news feed. Maybe because of the dangerous roads (just crossing them was a not always successful balancing act) but we only came across one walker in nearly 20 miles, the solitude of the group really added to the ‘you had to be out there’ experience.

  3. KC says:

    What a great ride and a great report too! After two falls in quick succession I lost my mojo and pootled along the trail. Thanks Matt for looking out for us.

    Hope that shoulder is not too bad today Lloyd

  4. Bazza says:

    Hi All
    A great ride yesterday and for the abuse!!!! good to be out in those conditions, shame Tony and I were oblivious to the carnage behind us on hogden lane, I only saw dave w come a cropper down there to which I hurled abuse on the way past as he looked ok., great pics today Matt and write up
    cheers, all off to look at my bike……

  5. DaveW says:


    I haven’t used a studded ice tyre – it would probably help where there is sheet ice or hard packed snow, but the conditions were so variable today, that I don’t think it would make a lot of difference. The surface was mostly quite soft or lightly packed and squeeky, giving good grip with my mud-x’s. The main challenges seem to be around not being able to see the trail, but having to react as you go, to concealed ruts, bumps, roots, mud, puddles, etc. On the occasion when several of us slipped on snow over ice on Hogden Lane, ice tyres might have helped. However, I don’t know how they would be on connecting bits of tarmac. I would quite like to try them, but the faff of changing tyres for one or two rides a year max and the cost are off putting.

    • Matt says:

      I haven’t used the Ice Spyker tyres either Paul but would imagine – as Dave says – that they would be useful on sheet ice and packed snow. I wish I’d had them for riding on our side roads and for the incidents that dumped us on the deck coming home. Unless I was commuting a lot in those conditions though I can’t imagine it worth the hassle of changing tyres.

      As I hinted during the report, it didn’t seem to matter very much what bike, tyre or wheel combination you were running today as the 29ers seemed to have just as much difficulty as 26ers.

      It was more a case of getting tyre pressures right – I let a fair bit out of my tyres during Barrie’s pedal fixing and the bike felt better after that (I was probably down to about 23-24psi). Dave also seemed to have low pressure on his rear tyre which gave his 29er quite a big footprint but we were never going fast enough to bang a rim anyway.

      Most of our riding on the rougher stuff was low speed and more a case of picking the right lines and keeping going, on the faster stuff things felt good.

  6. timbo says:

    That was fun,

    My MTB is giving me a bad back ! Suffered in the afternoon, I reckon the frame is too small !

  7. Lee says:

    Nice report. I ducked out a bit earlier with the promise of being home by 11. Had plans to get to NC and back too but progress was slow on the SS and nursing a few bruises from early falls on a side road and at the beginning of Hogden Lane. Apart from the fairly grippy section at the bottom of the descent, I had to walk up the entire lane as I could get no traction on the ice.

    With time pressing on I ended up diverting down to the Sawmill and doing what is the usual Effingham night ride. The Impossible Climb was well…..

    Good to see Andy W and his mate Eddie at the White Down CP, the only other cyclists I saw all morning.

    Oh, and I now know my bike would look shite with white rims!

  8. Lloyd says:

    That was hard work but huge fun as well. Could never relax as even on the ‘easy’ drovers road there were enough ‘moments’ to keep you attentive. Learnt the hard way as i was still laughing at the comedy moles synchronised fall ahead of me when i went down hard on an ice patch. Like Keith I tiptoed along after that with Matt as concerned escort – thanks Matt.
    Soulder is fine Keith, just a little stiff and sore but nothing serious.

  9. Dave says:

    A very enjoyable ride with some huge comedy offs. Certainly a low pressure rear helps with traction and putting the power down but I should have let more out of the front. I was also surprised at how well JamesS roade his new steed with IKONesque summer like tyres fitted.

  10. Dandy says:

    Sounds v similar to Tony’s and my ride this morning, but we managed to avoid the ice. I was quietly impressed by how much grip the usual mud tyres provide in the snow. I think I’ve a Trailraker on the front and a MudX on the rear. I didn’t think to try reducing the pressures, was probably running around 30psi. Away in Spain until Thu night, but might try sneaking out again on Friday afternoon if I can, maybe in some fresh snow?

  11. Markymark says:

    Back of the net! Schuper! Great ride report. I headed out Saturday and it was slightly less sketchy in the fresh powder, although weirdly slushy in places too.

    Re: Bazza’s comedy pedal – i reckon your mrs is tinkering with your bikes in an effort to get you to do some more DIY mate! I’ll leave the abuse at that, for now, but look fwd to seeing you soon for some proper face-to-face heckling!!

    • Tony says:

      Mark you are so on track here! D’Andy and I were talking about exactly the same thing happening to Barrie’s bikes. He’s upset the Missus and this is here revenge! Will it be a brake line partly cut through or a loose steerer bolt next time????????????

      Alternatively it might just be plain mechanical incompetence?

  12. Bazza says:

    hey bring it on, the gloves are off, no poncy beating around the bush, proper bare knuckle abuse needed. The mrs just laughed at me when I told her about the pedal!! may be a mechanical competence book is needed to be purchased or given to me as a present….

  13. AJkiwi says:

    Hi Guys good to see you are all out in the snow having fun, While i am in the warm temperatures of Cape Town and enjoying the dust and not having to clean my bike for the next 2 months i will send through a few reports just so you all can remember what the sun looks like ;0) AJ

  14. Bazza says:

    hey 7 minutes… that guys needs to fix a puncture in the middle of a trail, freezing cold with bunch of tw*ts taking the p*ss, that would speed him up er I mean down,
    however I am remembering all these comments….

    AJ you lucky bugger in capetown…..

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